The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 31, 2003


Biodiversity Corner Eastern coyote

It was dusk on January eighteenth, the first night of the waning Hunger Moon. We were having a conversation in the living-room, facing the frozen Concord River, when my father-in-law remarked that he could see something standing on the ice. We all rushed to the window and saw that there was certainly either a fox, coyote or small dog standing on the ice of the river. We quickly sought out our binoculars and telescope to confirm that we saw a gray and white coyote. Seeing this animal absolutely thrilled us to pieces, but the procession of ten or so coyotes that joined the one on the ice caused us all to utter several "holy cows." They emerged slowly from the riverside brush in single file. They were varied in color from mixtures of grey, black, white and gold. We had about seven minutes to observe the pack before they returned to the forest as peacefully as they had emerged. Before and after this magical night, my mother-in-law has heard howling at dusk. One early morning since the eighteenth, my father-in-law has seen a lone coyote on the river.

MassWildlife explains that coyotes made their way into central and western Massachusetts in the 1950s, and didn't move into eastern parts of the state until the 1970s. Now coyote numbers in the area are well-established. The area a coyote may use is variable from 4 to 30 square miles. (Ed. note: Carlisle is 15.4 square miles.) Coyotes look like a medium-sized dog with exceptionally thick fur. Their coats may be grayish-black, blonde, light tan, dark tan or all black. They weigh from 33-50 pounds. Since coyotes have a variety of food sources (they are described by MassWildlife as "opportunistic feeders"), they have adapted to living in heavily populated areas as well as wild areas. They will feed on berries, fruits, vegetables, a variety of small animals, deer, and insects. Unfortunately for pet owners, coyotes view cats and small dogs as potential food and larger dogs as competition. MassWildlife encourages residents to keep pets restrained at all times. Coyotes are shy and elusive animals. They may be active day or night, and sightings are common at dawn or dusk.

MassWildlife has an excellent information series on "Living with Wildlife" that lists tips on preventing conflict with various animals, including the coyote. Here are four tips of the many that you will find on their web site: (1) Cut back brushy edges in your yard to reduce cover for coyotes and their prey; (2) secure garbage tightly in firm containers rather than bags; (3) store compost in a secure container with sufficient air flow; and (4) use bird feeders that keep seed off the ground since seed attracts small mammals, which in turn attract coyotes. MassWildlife encourages people with questions or problems regarding coyotes to contact their nearest District Office. You can also reach them by e-mail at


Christina Campbell moved to River Road in Carlisle from the Niagara Falls region in Canada, one and a half years ago. She is a professional gardener and loves the outdoors and what one can find there.

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged and welcomed from all interested observers of nature. Think of it as your space to say a word or two on behalf of one of your favorite species. Just follow the format of today's column (or not) and send to Kay Fairweather at 392 School Street, Carlisle MA 01741 or to Don't hold back due to lack of photos or drawings.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito